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4 Things in Your House Dirtier Than A Toilet

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1. THE KEYBOARD YOU'RE USING RIGHT NOW.

Your keyboard can be an incredibly accurate representation of what's in your nose and your stomach. Of 33 randomly sampled computer keyboards tested by a British consumer group this year, four were dirty enough to be considered a health hazard, and one harbored hundreds of times more bacteria than your average toilet seat. Of course, not everyone's keyboard is this dirty; contributing factors include not washing your hands after using the bathroom, picking your nose, and eating at your computer (especially at work), as the crumbs left behind tend to become little bacteria factories. Experts recommend swabbing your keyboard with lightly dampened alcohol wipes on a regular basis—and be sure to shake those cookie crumbs out, too.

2. THE KITCHEN.

The way some folks keep their kitchens, it would be more sanitary to prepare dinner in the bathroom. You wouldn't know they were a health hazard to look at them, but everything from chopping boards and dishcloths to the plastic washing-up bowls they use in the UK and elsewhere can -- and often do—harbor an immense amount of food-borne bacteria. Put them all together—knives and a chopping board used to prepare raw chicken or fish in a plastic tub with warm soapy water—and you have almost ideal conditions for the spread of bacteria. Add to that the dishcloth you dry every dish with, which hangs semi-damp over the lip of the sink when not in use, and you've got a real kitchen nightmare (as opposed to the Gordon Ramsey kind). The solution? Health experts recommend washing up in the sink itself instead of a plastic tub, washing the sink out with bleach regularly, changing those dishtowels regularly and, ideally, installing a sensor-activated faucet so dirty hands aren't always touching the tap handles.

3. MEN'S WALLETS.

Of the everyday items in your house, one of the most fertile breeding grounds for bacteria is a man's wallet. You touch everything in it regularly—as do whatever strangers have passed its contents on to you—and it stays in your back pocket, a nice warm place for bugs to breed. (Proximity to one's booty was not otherwise considered a factor.) But are wallets a more serious menace than salmonella-encrusted kitchen sinks? Researchers at the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene say no: "It is not whether bacteria are present, or how many there are, but what type they are."

4. WOMEN'S DESKS.

Sorry, ladies. It seems your desks—at home and at work—are often up to 400 times more bacteria-laden than a toilet seat, and 3 to 4 moreso than a man's desk. A research team at the University of Arizona offered several explanations: first and foremost, that women are more likely to keep snacks in their desk drawers, which promote mold and incubate bacteria like nobody's business. Secondly, make-up and lotions aid the transfer of bacteria from surface to surface, and more frequent contact with small children—who, let's face it, can be pretty germy—was also a contributor. "If there's ever a famine," one of the researchers said, "the first place I'll look for food is a woman's desk."

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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